SC Refuses SIT in Azad Fake Encounter

New Delhi
SC Refuses SIT in Azad Fake Encounter
The Supreme Court today refused to order any judicial inquiry or a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged fake encounter killings of top Naxalite leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and a Delhi journalist Hemchandra Pandey.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and C K Prasad said there was no reason to believe the allegation that the investigation conducted by the CBI into the encounter was not "honest".

The bench directed the CBI to file its investigation reports before the jurisdictional magistrate concerned in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, where the encounter took place on July 1, 2010.

The apex court said that the Magistrate shall not be influenced by any observations or findings of the CBI report and should proceed in accordance with the law as provided under section 173 CrPC which relates to 'report of police officer on completion of investigation'.

The apex court passed the order while disposing of the petition by Bineeta Pandey seeking a judicial inquiry or a probe by the SIT into the encounter on ground that the probe conducted by the CBI was not honest.

Counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioners alleged that the CBI officers, who gave a clean chit to the Andhra Pradesh Police on the encounter, were under the influence of the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.

He claimed that though the CBI was technically under the controll of DoPT, the cadre controlling was under the Union Home Ministry and hence was vulnerable to pressure and influence.

The counsel further submitted that the slain Naxalite leader Azad was in constant touch with Chidambaram as part of the Central Government's efforts to reach a ceasefire with the Maoists.

Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval, appearing for the CBI, and senior counsel Altaf Ahmed, on behalf of Andhra Pradesh Government, however, opposed any judicial inquiry or SIT probe on the ground that the agency had done a fair and professional investigation.

The counsel argued that any fresh probe would reflect on the "credibility, capacity and competence of the CBI to conduct investigations in such matters".

Earlier on April 13, the apex court had agreed to consider a plea for an independent probe into the encounter of the two in an allegedly staged gun battle by the Andhra Pradesh police, who were given clean chit by the CBI.

The court had agreed to consider the plea after Bhushan raised suspicions on the credibility of the CBI probe.

On March 16, the apex court had said that the CBI probe had established that the killings of Azad, a senior member of banned CPI (Maoist) Central Committee, and Pandey, by the AP police, were not in a fake encounter.

The bench, which had gone through the final report of the CBI in the investigation, had said the agency has given evidence to support its probe.

The bench had, however, agreed to Bhushan's plea to be allowed to go through the final probe report of the CBI.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Bineeta Pandey and social activist Swami Agnivesh, seeking an independent CBI probe into the killing.

They had alleged that post-mortem reports of both the persons and a fact-finding exercise carried out by rights groups clearly indicated that the encounter was not genuine.

It was alleged Azad, 58, who carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head, and Pandey, 32, were shot dead from a very close range, which was evident from their post-mortem reports.
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